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Rep. Kevin Brady discusses minimum wage bill

Editor-in-Chief

Published: Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Updated: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 00:02

Kevin Brady

Brynn Castro | The Houstonian

U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, speaks with two Huntsville residents at an event on Monday.

With March primary elections approaching in two weeks, U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-District 8, is making his rounds with local small business owners to address their concerns.

During his Monday session with Huntsville business owners, concerns over the proposed raise in the federal minimum wage is a hot political topic as owners are concerned over increased labor costs.

Senate Bill 460, named the Fair Minimum Wage Act 2013, was introduced in March 2013 to increase the minimum wage for employees across the nation incrementally in three phases. The plan is supposed to raise minimum wage to $8.20 in phase one, $9.15 in phase two and finally to $10.10 by 2015.

Where there is exceptional support from the Democratic Party and its supporters, Republicans, including Brady, say raising the minimum wage will hurt the economy. Democrats believe the bill would help minimum wage adjust for inflation and encourage consumer spending. Yet, Brady said to Huntsville business owners the bill “will hurt the growth of jobs.”

“I think it will make fewer jobs available for young people and especially minority young people trying to find their first job,” he said. “I think the goal shouldn’t be to raise minimum wage but to get people off it.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 452,000 workers in Texas earned minimum wage or less in 2012, which is 7.5 percent of hourly-paid workers. Nationwide, the percentage of minimum wage workers is 4.7 percent of hourly-paid workers. Although the number of minimum wage workers have declined from 2011.

The state unemployment rate has also dropped. In 2012, Texas had an unemployment rate of 6.8 percent, which dropped to 6 percent in 2013.

Due to the drop in unemployment rates and workers on minimum wage in Texas, Huntsville business owners like Linda Branch said she has been able to maintain hourly wages well above the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Branch, who is the founder and owner of the Learning Rx, said businesses like hers are going to suffer the most from federal minimum wage raises.

“I don’t have a single employee that makes minimum wage,” she said. “My wages have to go up in proportion with minimum wage going up.”

Branch said raising the minimum wage also will force her to reduce the amount of employees to ensure she’s able to provide for a long-term staff.

“I can’t even hire a college kid or high school kid to work my desk because the cost increases demand that I spend my money on people who are most stable,” she said.

Yet, the Fair Minimum Wage Act proposes to restore the value of the dollar and boost consumer spending, according to Raise the Minimum Wage, a project maintained by the National Employment Law Project. According to the project, the federal minimum should be $10.74 to keep up with inflation over the past 40 years.

The effect on employment also remains minimal, according to a 2013 surveyconducted by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. The survey concluded there’s a “4-1 margin that the benefits of raising and indexing the minimum wage outweigh the costs.”

And Democrats agree.

U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., said in an interview with the Minnesota Post that she supports SB 460 to support families who are dependent on minimum wage salaries.

Despite the support, Brady and Huntsville business owners are unyielding with concerns of increased labor costs and staff deductions.

Brady said instead of raising the minimum wage, there needs to be training to help employees move from dependence on minimum wage salaries.

“I would focus on the one of 10 workers that is in a poverty family and I would work on job training for them,” he said. “To help get that person their first job, to show them what they can do, and to move them off minimum wage, to me is critical.”

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